Police Nicked for Marketing Dishonestly

If there’s one thing that gets sniffed out quickly in our social media age, it’s inauthenticity.

Deputy Chief Constable Campbell Corrigan in front of the 'seized' cars

An investigation by the Daily Record, Scotland’s best selling daily newspaper, has shown that even the Police can occasionally stoop to act dishonestly in their marketing campaigns.

When Deputy Chief Constable of Strathclyde Police posed in front of 10 high value cars, each bearing the registration plate ‘SEIZED’, it should have been a straightforward PR success story.

But the cars had not been seized by police. They were, it now transpires, merely “representative of the types of vehicles” that police had seized. They had actually been borrowed that day from a local car dealership.

In the past a media stunt like this would probably have passed off without further discussion. But with growing public demands for transparency and honesty and an expanding population of digitally-connected consumers, it’s almost inevitable that duplicity of this nature will eventually be exposed. Noble marketing is the only way forward, anything less is doomed to fail in the long run.

A Strathclyde police spokesperson has now confirmed: “The vehicles displayed were identical substitutes of some of the high-spec models seized by officers since April 2012, and were used as examples only. They were sourced from a car dealership at no cost to the force.”

Many of our police forces should be congratulated for embracing the social web and inviting dialogue with members of the public. It’s not always an easy balance, holding the public’s trust while also keeping a distance that maintains respect for the force. But the very least most people expect is honesty and fairness from the public organisations that exist to maintain them.

The arrival of the social web has made sure that there’s nowhere left to hide. If you can’t play by the rules, expect to be shown up as a cheat.